GN&C Engineering Lessons Learned from Human Space Flight Operations Experiences

Documenting and sharing GN&C lessons learned helps the entire community of practice, including design engineers, test engineers, system engineers, flight operations engineers and project managers. Capturing and disseminating these GN&C lessons serves to minimize project risk and improve performance of system performance, operational reliability, and safety. The importance of identifying, documenting and widely sharing GN&C lessons learned during system design and development is broadly acknowledged by most aerospace engineering organizations. This paper addresses a recently observed concern. While NASA and other national spaceflight organizations do a reasonably good job of capturing the lessons learned arising from the GN&C system design and development phases of the project life cycle we are not so adept at identifying and capturing lessons learned from the flight operations phase of a given mission's life cycle. Often significant lessons learned during flight operations fail to be captured even though they are well known ‘tribal knowledge' amongst the flight operations team members. This paper summarizes the results of a study performed by members of the NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC) Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GN&C) Technical Discipline Team (TDT) to systematically and comprehensively identify and document GN&C lessons learned that have emerged from NASA's human and robotic spaceflight operational experiences. We believe that some of these operational lessons learned can provide valuable feedback not only for the next generation of GN&C flight operations engineers but also for those engineers performing the up-front N&C design and development work.